A Weekend with Valencia

Valencia is perfect for solo travelers because this unique Spanish city is itself the perfect travel companion. Valencia is warm and welcoming, and not to mention I felt completely safe even though I was a solo female traveler. As soon as I arrived, I was swept up by Valencia’s open arms and shown an incredible time. Even though I only spent a few days with the city, it was the perfect amount of time; my brief visit left me wanting more. I would not mind running into Valencia again.

If you are looking for a bustling city atmosphere followed by a quiet afternoon on the beach, Valencia’s your guy. Not to mention, he makes a mean paella!

Catedral de Valencia: When I arrived, I stumbled into Plaza de Reina while the sun was setting. This plaza is lively and exotic with tall palms trees lining the edges. And then I spotted it at the other side of the plaza – the cathedral glowing against the dark blue sky. I automatically knew that Valencia and I would have strong chemistry. It was the perfect beginning to our romance.

La Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias: The work of Valencia’s famous architect, Calatrava, can be found all over the city. But his most impressive and innovative work is La Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias. It is made up of an opera house, an aquarium, a planetarium, and a science museum. Since it opened in 1998, this has become the main tourist attraction in Valencia, but was not my favorite site. While I was wandering the city, Valencia led me here and although I was blown away, I would rather have just spent intimate time with getting to know Valencia. Most people don’t really go into the buildings themselves, instead just admire the architecture from outside. The whole complex is built over what looks like a pool/water park and the buildings are connected by intricate bridges. Definitely a very cool intergalactic-esque must-see.

Mercado Central: I woke up hungry for oranges (one of Valencia’s specialties) so Valencia led me to the perfect place for them. Made famous because of the architecture, Mercado Central is one of the oldest running markets in Europe. Be sure to look up when you are there, the market is most known for its colorful dome.

La Playa: Most people don’t go to Valencia for the beach, but I was determined to have a beach day and was surprised by the perfect afternoon. It was beautiful, quiet, relaxing, and the people were extremely friendly. Take a romantic stroll down the long boardwalk jutting out into the water where you can admire Valencia’s beach and sailboats. It is very easy to get to, just a short tram ride away.

Barrio del Carmen: This neighborhood was perfect for date night. Spend the night at the bohemian bars and restaurants. History meets modern day in this district; you can find an ancient monument next to a contemporary and hip art installation.

Where to Eat:
One word: PAELLA. This is Valencia’s signature dish and the locals are very serious about it. Follow these rules when roaming the streets looking for the best paella spot:

  1. The authentic paella places require you to order two servings (not sure exactly why, but if they let you get one, you can assume it’s just heated up from the freezer).
  2. Avoid chains and places that have pictures of their meals on the doors and in the windows, like big pictures of plates of paella.
  3. Real paella is made from fresh ingredients in a special iron pan with a wood fire, not gas or electricity.
  4. Eat it at lunch. That is when paella is usually eaten, so if it is served for dinner, it may be leftover from the restaurant’s lunch.

Valencia took me to a tiny cafe on Calle Caballeros that served vegetarian paella for about 2 euros and it was delicious. However, locals say the best paella is by the Malvarrosa beach area.

Where to Stay:
If you arrive on your own and are on a budget, I recommend the friendly Home Youth Hostel, located right behind La Lonja and only a few steps away from all of the other main sights. Chances are that at the end of the night, you won’t be going home alone.

Clearly Valencia is the perfect guy. Who else can offer you amazing food, gorgeous beaches, and a lively city life all in ONE weekend?!

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